In one of the biggest rebuilds in recent memory, general manager Reggie McKenzie is using the 2014 offseason to push the Oakland Raiders over the final hill to competing for the AFC West. With more than $60 million in cap space, he set out to replenish the all around depth of the team. Rather than go after high priced big name players, he signed multiple mid-tier free agents, most of them to two-year deals.
However, to build a successful long term franchise, Reggie McKenzie knows he must draft better. Although he hasn’t drafted as well as he’d like in the past two seasons, he has an opportunity with a deep draft this year.
One of the biggest areas the Raiders have suffered in the past few years is someone wreaking havoc off the edge. Although Lamarr Houston was a phenomenal player, he wasn’t disrupting the QB as much as the team would like and has since moved onto Chicago. Sio Moore is still developing and is a bit undersized to be a franchise pass rusher.
Although the team did sign Lamarr Woodley and Justin Tuck, they are older and likely not something to build the defense around. Both are on two year deals and only meant as transitional players.
In order to build a strong defense to build the team around, McKenzie must draft someone to bully opposing offensive tackles and terrorize backfields.
At the fifth pick in the draft, he has some good options if he chooses to go that route. Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack are two world-class options that can be foundational players. Clowney is a more traditional defensive end who has the size and athleticism to take over a game. Mack is a versatile linebacker who could play as a defensive end or outside linebacker, as well as move all over the formation as a destructive chess piece.
There is also plenty options in the mid rounds, such as Louisville’s Marcus Smith or Texas’ Jackson Jeffcoat, who can sit behind Tuck and Woodley and learn the nuances of the pro game from two experienced veterans.
While there are options to start in 2014, McKenzie must build depth to build around. Signing experienced free agents can seem sure fire, but buying cheap on young talent is one of the best ways to build a team, as Super Bowl champions such as Seattle and New York have displayed.